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2014 Draft Prep: Breakouts, 2.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week long $100,000 Fantasy Football contest for just Week 1. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now

Sleepers, 2.0 | Busts, 2.0 | Draft Averages | Rankings | Draft Index

Apologies to Khiry Robinson and Tavon Austin, breakout candidates chewed up and spit out by the preseason machine. They've been replaced by Shane Vereen and Kelvin Benjamin, both of whom not only have had a stellar preseason, but also have potential for big, fat stats.

That's what we live for -- fat stats.

Remember that breakout players aren't just guys you'll look at in the first five rounds of your draft. Mid- and late-round picks also qualify, many of which are listed below. Arming yourself with some of these names will ease your concerns when you get toward the back half of your draft and have no idea who to pick. These players aren't just names to know, they are potential starters you could lean on from week to week. If you had a list like that last year with Josh Gordon, Keenan Allen and Giovani Bernard on it, you would have probably made a run at a title in your league.

Even though we've updated our breakouts, many still remain from our first version, complete with analysis that still applies even though it was written in late July. Consider the original breakout list a supplement to this list.

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers

I'm sticking with Kaepernick despite the weak preseason start. The biggest problem with the Niners isn't him -- it's the O-line. Frankly, the coaching staff is too savvy to not work around the line if they can't fix it outright. It's been a staple of their team since Jim Harbaugh took over and it seems odd to think that all of a sudden it will be a weakness. When Kaepernick wasn't on his back this preseason, he was on point with most of his passes. It's clear from watching their formations and reviewing their offseason moves that the passing game is going to be a big point of emphasis for them. I'm counting on a career-high in passing yards and total touchdowns from Kaepernick in 2014.
I'd take him ahead of: Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos

Appendectomy what? Soon after Ball had emergency surgery he was back in Denver's preseason games. And they need him -- backup Ronnie Hillman had two starts to make a bid for touches and couldn't come up with a big game. Maybe if you're a fan of Hillman's you'll argue that he ran into tough defenses in Seattle and San Francisco, but the bottom line is that Hillman did zilch to suggest he could be the Broncos' lead tailback. So, Ball is back in the big boy spot next to Peyton Manning by default. That's a good spot to be in -- running backs have accumulated at least 12 touchdowns and over 1,800 total yards next to Peyton in each of his last five full seasons. Just ask Knowshon Moreno how it worked out for him working with Manning. Ball's in line for a slew of stats as defenses shy away from slowing him down since it'll mean Manning throwing over the top to any one of his receiving weapons.
I'd still take him ahead of: Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell

Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars

It's been a rough start for Gerhart as he's totaled 51 yards on 16 carries and an 8-yard catch through two preseason games, but he's a guy worth keeping faith in. Gerhart is easily Jacksonville's top back after auditions for Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson went nowhere. It might not be pretty -- we could see a lot of 17-carry, 60-yard days in our future -- but he should do enough catching passes and working the goal line to make up for it. I've referenced our research into Gerhart previously and still view him as a trustworthy No. 2 Fantasy running back.
I'd still gladly take him ahead of: C.J. Spiller, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants

So far this preseason the only bright spot for the Giants offense has been the run game. That could mean the team leans on its backs in the early going. When we called Jennings a breakout before, David Wilson was still in the picture for the ground game. Wilson's football career is over and his track career is beginning, eliminating one player from the workload. Andre Williams is a threat to steal touchdowns from Jennings, but it remains to be seen just how many overall touches he'll take away. Both Giants running backs are breakout candidates, but Jennings is the one you'll consider first in drafts. In PPR leagues he's safer as a No. 2 Fantasy rusher, but he can fill that role if you're needy for help in standard leagues.
I'd still take him ahead of: Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew, Trent Richardson

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots

Stevan Ridley might have looked like the best rushing option for the Patriots this preseason, but his track record of fumbles has either caught up to him or is about to catch up to him. In New England's third preseason game we noted Ridley on the field for 11 snaps with the starters while Vereen had 30. Vereen also won't tip the Patriots' game plan from play to play to opponents like Ridley has. So even though Vereen has a paltry 3.6 rushing average this preseason (Ridley has 3.9 on a dozen more carries) he's still the Patriots' best running back. Further evidence could be found in his receiving totals this preseason: seven catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, both coming against the Panthers in their third exhibition game. Through three seasons, Vereen has 1,092 total yards and nine touchdowns. We think he'll combine for more than 1,092 yards in this upcoming season while delivering close to nine scores, if not nine on the button. Health is an issue -- he's played in just 21 games over the last two seasons -- but his potential to be a monster in the Patriots backfield cannot be ignored. He's on my breakout list for the second year in a row.
I'd take him ahead of: Lions running backs, Bills running backs, Ravens running backs

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

You're going to come to a point late in your draft where you're looking for low-risk breakout candidates. Baldwin's the one I turn to. When we last wrote about Baldwin, Sidney Rice was still on the active roster. He's since retired. Percy Harvin is still on the active roster and healthy, which is good for Baldwin since he'll command coverage and leave Baldwin in favorable situations. He caught over 70 pct. of his targets last season and postseason and looked just as good if not better than Golden Tate in 2013. If he can grab 70 of 100-to-110 targets he could be in line for a 1,000-yard season (his track record suggests he can do this.
I'd take him ahead of: Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Kenny Stills

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers

Cam Newton could be in for a rough season, but we've seen quality receivers put up big numbers without their quarterback doing the same. One such guy is Steve Smith, who for years put up nice numbers with the likes of Jake Delhomme as his quarterback. Smith totaled over 1,100 yards from Newton in Cam's first two seasons as a result of a lot of targets and his game-breaking skills at the time. We can already tell that Benjamin is in line to lead the Panthers in targets this season -- everyone else in the Carolina offense is just pedestrian. And we can tell that Benjamin has taken well to the pro game and has shown off quite a catching radius to go with his long-stride running style and insane height (he's 6-foot-5). Because of the improvements we've seen from him along with Newton leaning on him, he's become my favorite rookie receiver. Don't rule out a 1,000-yard season from him.
I'd take him ahead of: Julian Edelman, Mike Wallace and any rookie receiver.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings

The more we watch him, the more we fall in love. Patterson's incredible size/speed skill set and solid finish to last season combined with Norv Turner's arrival to blend some spice into what was a vanilla Vikings offense makes the second-year receiver a legit threat to topple 1,200 total yards and seven touchdowns. The Vikings will start the year with Matt Cassel under center and he seems to have a good connection with Patterson, as evidenced by their 53-yard touchdown at Kansas City in the third week of preseason action. This one's a no-brainer -- Patterson should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver with No. 1 potential, which will make him a guy to target on Draft Day.
I'd take him ahead of: Keenan Allen, Michael Floyd, Roddy White

Rueben Randle, WR, Giants

With only three catches this preseason, Randle leads all starting Giants wideouts in yards per catch (17.7) and touchdowns (one). Of course, that shouldn't be the reason to take Randle. This is: He remains a playmaker in the Giants offense, one that should round into form soon after the first couple of games. The new scheme will yield easier routes to run and passes to catch, making him more efficient while also giving him a shot at breaking off long gains for touchdowns, which he did a decent amount of in 2013. Victor Cruz might be the top banana and will draw a lot of attention, opening up opportunities for Randle.
I'd take him ahead of: Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Maclin, Reggie Wayne

Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys

This is a pretty simple equation: Bad Cowboys defense plus good Cowboys offense equals a lot of points per week. And if Dallas is going to average, say, 27.4 points per game like they did last year, then getting pieces of the offense is a good idea. Williams is quite affordable in drafts with a pick around 90th overall and should be able to do better than the 736 yards and five touchdowns he had as a rookie. He's third Fantasy receiver material with potential to be a Top 20 pass catcher.
I'd still take him ahead of: Eric Decker, Kendall Wright, Percy Harvin

Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

Even with the Eagles offense showing some warts this preseason, there's a ton to like about Ertz. He's big, strong, fast and has some nice mitts to reel in passes from Nick Foles, whom he's spent time with this offseason developing chemistry. Through three preseason games, Ertz is second on the team in receiving with 110 yards on a second-best eight catches along with a score, the overwhelming majority of which came with the first-team offense. Interpret this as a sign that the targets are going to be there for him this season, especially in the red zone, where defenses can't match up well with him. And as I referenced earlier this offseason, Chip Kelly used tight ends more last year than all but one of his seasons as a college coach. Ertz isn't going to fade away or lose a lot of work to Brent Celek.
I'd take him ahead of: Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed

Ladarius Green, TE, Chargers

Green's preseason hasn't been filled with highlight reel receptions or big stats, but he's been working a good amount with the Chargers first-team offense. He's even tied with the team lead in receptions with five -- and the only starting receiver/tight end with at least three grabs. The thought here is that the Bolts have a stud wideout in Keenan Allen and a tried-and-true favorite in Malcom Floyd along with Antonio Gates. Green is their next best player and getting his 6-foot-6, 240-pound body on the field will cause all sorts of mismatch problems. Head coach Mike McCoy said he wished he used Green more last season and seems like he won't hesitate to go with Green this season.
I'd take him ahead of: Martellus Bennett, Eric Ebron, Antonio Gates

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Player News
Vikings sign defensive end Caesar Rayford
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:31 pm ET) The Vikings signed defensive end Caesar Rayford on Wednesday, Rayford's representation, the Willis & Woy Sports group announced.

Rayford attended the NFL veterans combine, which gave him another look for NFL teams. Rayford was last in the CFL and the Arena League. He was last in the NFL in 2013 when he was with the Cowboys. 


Broncos LB Reggie Walker said he'll add versatility to position
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:19 pm ET) Linebacker Reggie Walker is all right with doing whatever the Broncos coaching staff asks of him. 

Walker, in an interview with DenverBroncos.com, said one of his biggest assets as a football player is the ability to play multiple positions as a linebacker. However, his primary position is at inside linebacker. 

"I’ve had to play in multiple positions throughout my football career; I can do a lot," Walker said. "I think I can do a lot very well. Hopefully I can come out here and show that and I’m going to be ready to compete."

Walker will earn his pay check on special teams. That was a role he played with the Chargers and one the Broncos will rely on him for as well. 

"Special teams is all a mindset," Walker said. "It’s all just about who’s willing to work harder and I’m going to work as hard as I can so I’ll be great at it."


Browns' Randy Starks wants to 'take care of the defensive line'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) One attribute that defensive lineman Randy Starks is looking to bring to the Browns is leadership. 

Coming from Miami, Starks is hoping to be an outspoken leader to the younger members on the defensive line. Starks added that he doesn't necessarily want to try and assert his authority over the whole defense. 

“I’m not trying to come here and take over the whole defense," Starks said on Sirius XM radio, via ClevelandBrowns.com. "I’m just trying to take care of the defensive line, and that will help take care of the defense itself. Because we have (Karlos) Dansby and Joe Haden to take care of their respective positions.”

Starks recorded 28 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 15 games in 2014. In 11 seasons, Starks has only been to the playoffs twice. He's hoping that changes with the Browns. 

“That’s the same thing I told (coach Mike Pettine): I’m trying to win games," Starks said. "I’m trying to get to the playoffs. And we’re on the same page.”


Cardinals' Kareem Martin could move from DE to OLB
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Cardinals pass-rusher Kareem Martin could be going from having his hand in the dirt to standing up with the intent of rushing the passer. 

Martin, who spent his rookie season at defensive end, is being considered for a move to outside linebacker, coach Bruce Arians told the team's website

"With his length, I wouldn't say he's (San Francisco’s) Aldon Smith at this point in his career, but he's got that body style and he's shown some stuff off the edge,” Arians said. “So we are going to look at him to see if he can play in space at all. That might be a spot where he can find his niche as a pass rusher.”

Martin actually spent one day during his rookie year in the outside linebackers meeting room before making the move to defensive end. When Martin worked with the scout team, he would occasionally work as an outside linebacker.

“Being on the edge won’t be so foreign to me,” Martin said. “I’m ready for it.” 


Ravens' Steve Bisciotti: Haloti Ngata could return in 2016
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:38 pm ET) In a conference call with PSL ticket holders, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti didn't rule out the possibility of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returning to the organization in 2016. 

The Ravens tried to restructure Ngata's contract but were unable to, and thus traded him to the Lions. Ngata is in the final year of a four-year, $48.5 million contract he signed after the 2011 season started. 

Ngata was drafted by the Ravens in the first round in 2006. In his nine-year career, he's totaled 445 tackles and 25.5 sacks. 


Ravens working on contract extension with G Marshal Yanda
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:22 pm ET) The Ravens are working on a contract extension with right guard Marshal Yanda, owner Steve Bisciotti said on a conference call with PSL ticket holders. 

Yanda is slated to earn a $5.5 million base salary and carry an $8.45 million cap number heading into 2015, the final year of his contract. Yanda's regarded as one of the top interior linemen in the NFL, making him a prime candidate for the Ravens to work a new deal out with. 


Jets re-sign offensive tackle Ben Ijalana
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:44 pm ET) The Jets announced on Wednesday that they have re-signed offensive tackle Ben Ijalana

Ijalana has been with the Jets the previous two seasons after the organization claimed him of of waivers from the Colts prior to the beginning of the 2013 regular season. The Colts selected Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 draft. 


Reports: Stefan Wisniewski visited Jaguars, Patriots
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) The Jaguars hosted free-agent center Stefen Wisniewski on a visit on Wednesday, according to a report from the Florida Times-Union.

Wisniewski also recently visited the Patriots, according to NFL.com, with both New England and Jacksonville in need of interior offensive linemen. Wisniewski spent the past four years with the Raiders, appearing in 61 games. 


Jets sign linebacker Jamari Lattimore
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) The Jets announced on Wednesday that they have signed unrestricted free agent linebacker Jamari Lattimore

Lattimore spent the previous four seasons with the Packers. Lattimore signed with the Packers in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State. He's played inside linebacker and special teams for Green Bay. 

In 2014, Lattimore started five games and totaled 35 tackles. 


Vikings sign backup quarterback Mike Kafka
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Vikings have signed free-agent quarterback Mike Kafka , according to his agent Mike McCartney

Kafka recently threw at the first-ever NFL veterans combine. He's been a career backup since being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Eagles. Kafka has only appeared in four career games, going 11 of 16 for 107 yards and two interceptions. 

Kafka has also had stints with the Patriots, Jaguars and Buccaneers. 


 
 
 
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